PACIFIC OCEAN - The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5 and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed a 12-day integrated training event off the coast of Southern California, July 22.
PHIBRON-MEU Integration (PMINT) is the first of three pre-deployment training events for the ARG/MEU. PMINT aims to enhance coordinated operation between PHIBRON 5, the 11th MEU, and the three ships comprising the ARG -- amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD 25), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45).
"This phase in our pre-deployment training cycle allows PHIBRON 5, the Makin Island ARG, and the 11th MEU to heighten their understanding of how each part of the organization operates in order to become a seamless Navy-Marine Corps team," said Capt. Michael Crary, PHIBRON 5 commodore. "We use this time to refine how we plan and execute amphibious missions together before transitioning to the next training phase, when the team will apply what they've learned here to coordinate and conduct more complex missions in a compressed timeline."
Crary expressed the importance of frequent and clear communication between the ARG and 11th MEU in creating a cohesive blue-green team, whose main goal always remains safe mission accomplishment.
"One of the keys to our success has been the communication between the ARG-MEU staffs," said Crary. "We have continued building on lessons learned from the basic phase training cycle and the last deployment. That constant dialogue and experience from both services strengthens the ARG-MEU relationship, and it's what will lead us to succeed through the rest of this training cycle and deployment."
During PMINT, Sailors and Marines in the ARG trained together to prepare for a wide array of amphibious warfare operations, including amphibious landings, flight operations, air-defense exercises and defense of the force missions.
Somerset Commanding Officer Capt. Darren W. Glaser highlighted the Navy-Marine Corps teamwork that led to the successful completion of PMINT.
"As we prepare for USS Somerset's maiden deployment, our Sailors and Marines are learning to integrate two of the nation's greatest forces -- our Navy surface fleet and our expeditionary Marine forces," said Glaser. "We are continuing to validate our skills as a united combat team while executing multiple missions such as maritime interdiction, aviation operations and amphibious landings."
Throughout PMINT, the three ARG ships employed kinetic flight decks supporting the gamut of Marine aircraft, including AV-8B Harriers, MV-22 Ospreys, AH-1Z Cobras, UH-1Y Hueys, and CH-53E Super Stallions, as well as Navy MH-60 Seahawks. The ships' well decks launched and recovered amphibious landing craft, including Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), amphibious assault vehicles (AAV), and landing craft utility (LCU).
Makin Island Commanding Officer Capt. Jon P. Rodgers explained how the volume and complexity of missions during PMINT will prepare the ARG-MEU for deployment.
"These Sailors and Marines were complete strangers last week, but this week they worked shoulder-to-shoulder planning and executing simultaneous and complex missions," said Rodgers. "That teamwork is critical to success in this high-paced operational environment."
In addition to large scale ARG evolutions, PMINT was the first time in this training cycle Sailors and Marines lived and worked side-by-side.
"Whether you are 'blue' or 'green' doesn't matter; we're all one team," said Makin Island Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Sarah Minnick, from San Diego. "Accomplishing the mission as part of the Navy-Marine Corps team is an incredible experience."
While it may have been the first time working in a joint environment for many Sailors and Marines, the two military branches demonstrated their professionalism and interoperability daily.
"This is my first time underway on a Navy ship, and it's been a great experience," said Cpl. Daniel Jimenz, from Kansas City, Kansas, assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 11. "We've built a lot of camaraderie working alongside our Navy counterparts. We're all here to accomplish the mission and we can only do that together."
Amphibious Squadron 5, the Makin Island ARG and the 11th MEU plan to execute the second phase of integrated pre-deployment training in August during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).